It’s almost 20 years since I was flicking through a National Geographic magazine and stumbled across an article on Thailand which first raised my interest and numerous pleas to Graham to go. On 18th January after a monster stock up on booze (duty free) and a little food and a lot of dog biscuits (we always stock up big when we find them) and a really quick clear out procedure, we set sail and within 4 hours we were anchored up at Koh Lipe, one of the most southern islands in Thailand. Clearing in was quick and easy and it wasn’t long before we were enjoying a local beer on the beach and admiring the sunset. This was followed shortly by some delicious thai food (Amanda’s favourite) and then on our way back to the tender we passed a local bar with a reggae band and just had to stop in for one or three or maybe it was twelve chang beers. Whatever it was the next day was a right off, but a good fun first night in Thailand and a great introduction. Graham said “Well my girl, I promised you Thailand one day”. He always keeps his promises even if he is a little slow at fulfilling them.
After exploring Lipe (easy to walk around) we sailed over to nearby Adang Is for some snorkelling. After a couple of days there and with the wind still favourable we continued north, stopping into numerous islands along the way. We were headed NW to find some more good snorkelling when the winds dropped and we ended up motoring east into Ko Phetra NP area. We found a scenic anchorage on Ko Phetra itself but had a terrible night of slapping on the hulls when the tide turned. The next day we paddled around the corner to a secluded beach on the opposite side of the island and decided to move the Nap there. After the second awful night sleep we wised up and moved on. Scenic or not – we need our sleep.
We celebrated Australia Day with a cold beer up the front while looking out at our “front yard” (nope, doesn’t need mowing or weeding) while anchored up at Ko Muk. We stopped off here for the same reason the other dozen boats did…to see the Emerald Cave. We waited until most of them left the next day and then kayaked over early (before the hoards of tourists started arriving in the noisy longtails). They call them “hongs”, where part of the cave roof collapses and you can see open sky. Then due to the sunlight and bird and bat droppings etc plants start to grow.…The little Eden far exceeded either of our expectations.
We kayaked about 100m through the cave tunnel, using a torch in the middle, then rounded the corner and saw a spec of light that opened up into this. That’s the little opening we popped out of. Wow!
We stopped off at Ko Lanta just to break the trip, but ended up spending a few days there. We liked the laid back vibe, just like Lipe, only Lanta is a bigger island so more to do and explore. We hired a scooter to do a lap around the island, and along the way we saw our first elephants outside of a zoo or circus, enjoyed a yummy thai meal at a restaurant built into a cliff overlooking the ocean, and returned successfully – unscathed. I get a bit nervous on the back of a bike…let’s face it we cruise around in the Nap doing no more than about 10km/hr or the dinghy doing half that and then suddenly we are flying around on a motorbike with me on the back going “slow down Graham” (we are doing 40km/hr) and Graham on the front going “but doesn’t that feel great”? I’m always relieved when we make it back in one piece. At least we got helmets here! Lovely long stretches of beach for lovely long sunrise and sunset walks, lined with restaurants and bars, many made with bamboo and driftwood, sounds of reggae music and smells of coriander and lime permeate the air. Ah Thailand. Graham enjoyed a hit at the driving range while I had a “yes massage”. My first on a beach, it was lovely listening to the sound of the waves gently rolling up on the beach, birds in the trees and when I rested my head on my hands (while she massaged my legs) I could look out and see the sea..and Catnap! Highly recommended. At night there is the familiar green glow on the horizon – the squidder lights. While here we listened to the firecrackers and occasional fireworks to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Those firecrackers are loud and the business owners were letting them off from early morning to late at night – gave you a fright at first – sounded like gunshots – we were told it’s to chase away the bad spirits and thus bring good luck for the new year. Sasha (like most dogs) hates them and starts with a low growl followed by a bark after every bang.
We drove through a rubber tree plantation – first time we ever saw where latex came from (not that we had ever wondered before). We couldn’t resist going up close and inspecting inside the half coconut shell. They had made a shallow scrape on the tree and were using the coconut to catch the sap – Graham poked it – and it felt all rubbery.
On my to do list, while in Thailand was of course an elephant ride through the jungle, and hopefully in the ocean as I had heard you could do here. But while researching elephant treks I learnt some disturbing (to me) news about how these elephants available for the treks come to be there. I understand the Mahouts (elephant handlers) originally acquired the elephants for heavy lifting work such as in the logging industry. Over time machines have taken their place in many instances so now the elephants and the Mahouts are out of work and so are turning to begging on the streets and tourism. I get we all need to earn a living and that these elephants and mahouts are bonded until the elephant is about 50-60 then by law they must retire them. But in my research I have learned that the calf is often taken from it’s mother – sometimes she is shot. The calf is easier to train. A sharp spike is used to train and control the baby. I read that this training usually begins 3-5 years of age, allowing it time to be a baby elephant. But this calf was only 2 and taken from it’s mother we don’t know how long ago. We first saw him in this “field” chained to a tree all by itself. Our first thought was “aww how cute”, especially when it appeared to be dancing around. It blasted it’s baby trumpet and almost frolicked around in front of us. It wasn’t until it snatched up on the chain around it’s leg that I started feeling uncomfortable. Later, we saw it again, moved closer to the roadside and with bananas available for sale so you could feed it – the Mahout told us his baby elephant ate 20kg of bananas a day – so the moral dilemma of do we help feed this elephant and give the mahout an income or by doing so are we contributing to the snatching of more baby elephants? And not even for the original use of heavy lifting but to satisfy the desires of me the tourist. We went up close to meet the elephant and talk to the Mahout, who at one point went to spike the baby to make it curtsy for us – I asked him to please not do this for us. We were happy just to get close to the baby and look into it’s eyes – I had no interest in seeing it do any tricks. Okay so the babies are really cute and the big ones are HUGE yet graceful, but for the moment we have decided not to go treking and instead visit them in an elephant sanctuary where we can view the retired elephants being elephants and not performing circus acts for us. There are some reputable ones around and you can stay overnight – so it’ll be a nice bush experience for us too.
We were glad for our little encounter to help us make our final choice. Aww so cute…
Ko Pharya Nak – setting for the film “The Beach”. Dramatic scenery – sheer cliffs falling into the turquoise waters…I can’t capture it on film….you have to see for yourself. While there’s no resorts on the island, during the day it was ridiculously packed out with daytrippers from nearby Phi Phi Islands. There were people all over the small beach and busy snorkelling around the cliff edges – we didn’t see any great coral but there were a few “aquarium” fish. Perhaps scuba diving in this area would be better. We were relieved when they all left – peace and quiet from the noisy longtails. We were surprised to see them, and hear them back by 7am. Don’t these tourists want a lie in – we do!
Late arvo all the sunset cruise boats came by…”Bob’s Booze Boat” looks like fun…if you’re of Kontiki age.
When we looked close at the cliff faces we could see many small caves, and inside some were swifts – the small birds that make the nests for birds nest soup….we have seen on documentaries where the Thais climb those skinny bamboo poles to collect them – some of them are so high and the cliff-faces so sheer we wondered how on earth they got the nerve to scramble up those poles just for a tiny nest made out of basically bird spit!
Anchoring at Phi Phi was interesting – the first night was dead quiet & we wondered what all the fuss was about – the second night the DJ on the beach had the Nap rocking – seriously, you could feel the beat in bed & we were anchored over half a mile off shore. It was really pretty & the climb to the viewpoint made the lack of sleep worth it. We felt the island was too cramped & weren’t sad to leave – after we took in the view of course. Did a couple of good long paddles & some unexciting snorkelling (maybe we didn’t find the right spot).
It was a heck of a climb – really steep. And we were surprised to find you had to pay (less than a $1)when we got to the top – fortunately we had some money in the backpack holding our camera – you would be spewing to climb all that way only to be caught out and have to miss it. Totally worth it, even though a nearby fire was smoking out part of the view.
At Chickenhead Island we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset even though a boatload of opera loving budgie smugglers came and anchored too close.
Almost at Phuket,but not without checking out the cleanest (and newest) hardstand we have ever seen, at Krabi,as part of our research (it’s over 2 years since we have been able to slip the Nap and we really need to replace the antifoul to help us stop dragging a carpet of green weed and our own little reef/aquarium beneath us). “Job” done we headed over to Railay and are so glad we did – HIGHLY recommend this spot for scenery and fantastic walks that get your adrenalin going – or full on rock climbing and abseiling for those who need that bit extra. We were happy with the “walk” up to the “viewpoint”. This started with an almost vertical climb with ropes to assist you…we should have known then it wouldn’t get any easier. It was a fantastic physical challenge and the view and satisfaction of actually making it there and back was so fantastic we plan to go back again – and anyone who comes to visit, we are taking you there with us! The next day, feeling a little stiff in the calves we did another climb that took us up inside a limestone “pillar”, with some little “windows” for the view out, but mostly we were in the dark save for the teeny light of our little pencil torch that thankfully didn’t run out of batteries. Note to selves, next time take a larger torch or better still a headlight torch so we can keep our hands free for the rickety bamboo ladders and ropes needed to scramble up.
Due to the NE trade winds this time of year we were able to anchor on the western side which is beachy…the eastern side is muddy and dries out for miles. We watched the tourists arriving across the shallow mud banks to their hotels in a trailer hooked up to the back of a tractor – I kid you not.
First there was the steep climb up to the viewpoint then on the return we took a side track down to the “lagoon”, which for the most part was a vertical climb using ropes. 360 degrees vertical cliff face encompassing this hong.
One of the “REAL” climbers – we spent hours watching them climbing sheer cliff faces…..but when they went totally horizontal we were gob-smacked.
It may not look like it but this guy was actually horizontal climbing under this cliff. He moved so quickly and easily barely raising a sweat. I struggled to get the camera out and on before he finished, lowered himself down and said g’day – and he wasn’t even breathless.
There were a couple of shrines set up in the Princess cave. Legend has it an Indian Princess died while on a barge in a storm and her spirit inhabits the cave. She grants favours to all who visit and pay their respect. The local fisherman carve wooden phalluses to leave in the cave as offerings in the hope she will grant them lots of fish in their catch….not sure of the connection with the wooden phalluses there. There were so many of them they have started throwing them willy-nilly off to the left, there were hundreds of them. Maybe it works as all the fish seem to have been caught!
Before we did our climb we had to walk past all these little fairy caves that I would love to take my little nieces and grand-daughter through.
We were able to climb partway up inside this “limestone pillar”..
…and then look out some little windows at this view over the bay.
Great fun and great scenery and great food. So far we are enjoying Thailand…but it’s time to head to Phuket and decide on a place to slip the Nap before carrying on. So until next time love as always to family and friends. We will be here a couple of seasons – well back and forth and round about – seems like a good spot to meet up and go cruising together. December to March best time weatherwise. MWAH xxx